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Milosevic Trial Adjourned on Health Concerns - 2004-07-05


The war crimes trial of former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic at a U.N. tribunal in The Hague was adjourned Monday because of concerns over his health.

The presiding judge in the case, Patrick Robinson, called for a radical review of the trial process, as well as the continuation of the trial itself, in light of the former leader's health problems. The judge cited medical reports received last week as the basis for the action.

Mr. Milosevic, who is 62-years-old, has suffered from periods of high blood pressure, flu and exhaustion since the trial began in 2002, and the proceedings have frequently been delayed on health grounds.

Judges are expected to rule Tuesday on how to proceed. The prosecution has rejected suggestions that Mr. Milosevic is unfit to stand trial.

The former Yugoslav president, who is conducting his own defense, was due to launch his arguments Monday. The prosecution concluded its case in February.

Mr. Milosevic is charged with dozens of counts of war crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo in the 1990s, where fighting claimed an estimated 250,000 lives. He has called the charges false and describes himself as a peacemaker. Mr. Milosevic says the tribunal in The Hague is an illegal institution, being used to cover up what he calls war crimes sponsored by the United States and Britain. He wants to call former President Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair as witnesses.

Mr. Milosevic has refused to enter a plea, but pleas of not guilty were entered for him by the trial's three judges.

NATO launched a bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999, after accusing it of ethnic cleansing against the Albanian majority in Kosovo province. The military campaign forced Mr. Milosevic to withdraw his forces from Kosovo.